The Dalai Lama's plan to retire from political duties is a welcome step towards separating religion from politics, according to a Chinese expert on Tibetan affairs.
Du Yongbin, a fellow with the state-backed China Tibetology Research Centre, said the Dalai Lama's political exit would ease rather than increase tension between Beijing and the government-in-exile in Dharamsala India.
Du is the first Chinese think-tank scholar to comment on the Tibetan spiritual leader's announcement that he would step back from politics.
'He [the Dalai Lama] has proposed democratic reform [of the Tibetan government-in-exile] since 2001 and his retirement from political duty is a move towards the separation of religion from politics,' Du said in a briefing in Beijing yesterday.
The revered, 75-year-old monk said 10 days ago he would retire as the head of his exiled government and hand power to an elected leader.
Although many observers see the move as a risk, Du suggested the Dalai Lama's decision would actually improve Tibetan relations with Beijing. 'If he sticks to doing his duty as a religious leader there will be fewer Tibetan controversies,' he said.
The Dalai Lama announced his political retirement on March 14. The Tibetan parliament-in-exile passed a resolution on March 18 urging him to reconsider the decision. But Du said it was doubtful whether the parliament-in-exile would accept the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's decision.
The Tibetan parliament-in-exile yesterday presented a report recommending the Dalai Lama's political power be divided among three members of the assembly, according to parliament member Dawa Tsering. Du admitted the region was problematic and that tackling its troubles was complex.
'There are very many problems in the area. And this is exactly why we want to build a harmonious society there - because there are so many problems,' Du said.
He also warned that Tibetans might have to endure more pain than others in the process of modernisation. 'The contradiction - and the pain - that Tibetans and their religion might be subjected to in the process of modernisation and globalisation will be more acute,' he said.
Analysts say radicals might dominate in the post-Dalai Lama era as the spiritual leader's 'middle way' has not produced results. They cite the 2008 rebellion against Chinese rule, in which possibly hundreds were killed, as evidence of this growing defiance. But Du did not agree: 'It is highly unlikely that young radicals will take over and resort to violence.'
Many believe there will eventually be a Dalai Lama named by Beijing to rival the one named by senior monks loyal to the current Dalai Lama.